While the ongoing restrictions due to COVID-19 are difficult, they are working. The more we practice social distancing, and only move around for essential activity, and the sooner we will be able to return to seeing our friends and family physically.

So keep staying home and only leave for reasons as stated in Stage 3 restrictions on activities. To help with the ongoing transition, we wanted to share five budget-friendly ideas to help you eat healthy without sacrificing taste or convenience.

It is important to keep your body nourished and energised during these uncertain times, but we know it can be challenging if you are unsure of what to cook. 

Have a look at these 5 meal ideas, for under $3 per serve*, to help inspire you. For workers who support young people, cooking a meal with them virtually together is also a great way to stay connected with them and support during this time.

Crunchy yoghurt in a bowl with almonds, apple, seeds, Weetbix

Sweet and Crunchy Yoghurt

This is an easy meal that can be used as a snack, a light breakfast or a night bite. No need to be a Masterchef to prepare this delicious treat!

Ingredients:

  • an apple,
  • a handful of almonds,
  • a handful of pumpkin seeds
  • Greek style yoghurt,
  • 1 Weet-Bix biscuit
  • A dash of honey.

Instructions:

  1. Just put everything together into a medium-sized bowl and serve

If you follow a vegan diet, you can swap the greek yoghurt for soy or another type of vegan-friendly yoghurt, and honey can be a swapped for maple syrup.

Mediterranean Feast

Mediterranean feast

This feast takes all the leftover bits and pieces from our fridge to create a quick, Mediterranean, tasty meal.

Ingredients:

  • 2 basted cooked eggs
  • Acouple of sour pickles
  • 1 tomato
  • Half an avocado
  • Some feta or cottage cheese.

Instructions:

  1. To cook basted eggs, fried the eggs in a pan with a bit of olive oil or butter and then cover the egg with a lid, to steam the whites until it is cooked through
  2. Cut the tomatoes, cheese and avocado into bite-sized friendly
  3. Take the eggs off the pan and serve all the ingredients with a side of pickles

For a plant-based option, make sure your cheese is vegan-friendly and swap the eggs for some classic pita bread with olive oil.

A bowl of fried rice on a benchtop

Fried rice with veggies

This meal is almost as classic as a takeaway pizza but much healthier. You can add so many twists to this recipe but our tip is to focus on seasonal and on sale veggies to make a cheap and colourful meal.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of rice (white, brown, etc)
  • a touch of soy sauce,
  • Seasonal vegies (I used carrots, green beans and onions)
  • A serve of black beans.

Instructions:

  1. Cooked the rice following the instructions of its package and rinse it with cold water.
  2. Sautee all of the veggies in a pan on medium heat for five minutes until softened
  3. Mix in your rice, and some soy sauce before serving to taste!

Spagbol

Speedy Spaghetti Bolognese

Initially it seemed like pasta and toilet paper would be the new world currency. But thankfully, we’ve stopped hoarding and you can find some staples in the local supermarket. So this is an easy version of a classic Italian recipe to treat yourself.

Ingredients:

  • 250g ground beef
  • 1 carrots
  • 3 or 4 mushrooms
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tin of crushed/diced tomatoes
  • A splash of red wine
  • Your favourite spaghetti

Instructions:

  1. Cut all the veggies and cook in a saucepan
  2. Just before the veggies are done, add the ground beef and cover the lid
  3. In a large pot, start cooking the pasta as per instructions on the package
  4. Meanwhile, add the wine and chopped tomatoes into the saucepan and cook in low/medium temperature until all the alcohol is gone

To make this meal plant-based, avoid using the beef and swap for 1 diced eggplant. Also, make sure your red wine is vegan-friendly or avoid using alcohol at all by using some vegetable stock and a dash of soy sauce.

Sweetpotato soup

Sweet Potato Soup

This recipe is perfect for a cozy dinner at home, iso style. It is easy to make and even though it might seem a bit more expensive compared to others, once you cook it you can freeze it and will have several servings ready to go.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2-3 carrots
  • 5-6 sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 tsp of curry powder
  • 2 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1 apple
  • 1 cup of milk or cream
  • Water as needed.

Instructions:

  1. Finely chop the onions, carrots, sweet potatoes and apples
  2. Sautee the onions, carrots, and sweet potatoes in a saucepan for 10 minutes
  3. Add in the curry powder and stir around to mix with the vegetables
  4. Add the vegetable broth, cover and simmer over low heat until everything is tender and tasty (30 minutes!)
  5. Add in the apple and milk/cream almost at the end
  6. Finish it by blending it all!

For a vegan soup, just swap the butter for olive oil and avoid using the milk or cream. You can make the soup thicker by adding some coconut milk or stale bread instead. 

 Saving Tips

  • To lower your spend on groceries overall, try to buy a bigger quantity, such as family packs or veggies by the kilogram.
  • Try to share some basic staples with your housemates (rice, condiments, oil, etc).
  • Support your local businesses and find cheap quality deals on veggies, fruits, and many others.

*The food items included in this resource have been bought both on major supermarkets and small businesses.

This resource was developed by Julian Garrido, who is volunteering his time with YACVic's Media and Communications team. If you have any suggested changes or any questions, please email info@yacvic.org.au.